Over the last two weeks, I’ve written about two of the three concepts I use as I begin a yoga class. A focus on the breath and an awareness of our self physically, emotionally, and mentally. This week I’ll be writing about the third concept – setting an intention.
But what does ‘setting an intention’ actually mean/ Different yoga teachers mean different things when using this phrase. In some cases, it is something similar to a mantra, a word or phrase students are asked to repeat throughout the class. But that’s not how I use it. In Merriam-Webster online, once you get through the circular definitions – intention is what one intends, intent is a clearly formulated or planned intention – there is something helpful to this discussion in the formal definition. The second definition is “a determination to act in a certain way.” And that’s closer to what we are talking about here.
For me, taking a moment or two to set an intention as you are preparing for yoga class means a couple of different things. It is part of a shift created by this introductory section of a class. The focus on your breath, the awareness of your current state of being and the idea of determining to experience this specific yoga class in a certain way are all part of making a shift from our day to day experiences to a class. Over time and practice, these three elements support our ability to step away from the stresses and noise of our daily routine and drop into the quiet, more deliberate pace of a yoga class. (Even a yoga class with music and energy is a different type of energy and noise than our regular patterns.) Setting an intention is a way to decide or to use the dictionary term, determine, what you want or need to focus on during class.
Setting an intention could be as simple as deciding to focus on your breath throughout the class. It could be as complicated as deciding that you want to push yourself a bit physically, perhaps to try a pose that has eluded you in the past or to use your breath to help you go deeper into a pose. Setting an intention could also be deciding to hold peace in your heart as you go through the poses. It’s very individual and can and should change over time. Setting an intention adds depth and meaning to the physical experience of the class. At the end of the class, teachers often suggest an intention to take the feelings of peaceful energy created during the class out into the rest of your day. Setting an intention for class and for the rest of the day are powerful ways that bring depth to your yoga practice.
The practice of setting an intention can bring depth, energy, and sometimes even peace into your leadership practice as well. And we’ll explore that idea in the other essays through the course of this week.
Today’s meditation is a simple breathing practice paired with the idea of setting an intention for your mediation session.